On occasion, a government entity is responsible for an accident. Here’s how you can receive compensation for your personal injury case should you find yourself in this situation.
When a person suffers a personal injury in Florida, they have the option of bringing a lawsuit against the responsible party for damages. This task becomes a bit more complicated when the responsible party is a government agency.
A victim can still recover financial compensation from a state agency for many personal injuries. However, as with most interactions with the government, there is more red tape to wade through in order to succeed with this type of claim.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to the negligence of a government agency, state/federal employee or someone else, George Lorenzo and the rest of the personal injury team at Lorenzo & Lorenzo can help protect your rights and get your family the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Sovereign Immunity in the United States
The U.S. government was originally protected from civil lawsuits based on the English common law principle that the state cannot be sued unless it consents. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1899 case (Price v. United States) that the U.S. government is never liable for a citizen’s personal injury.
This immunity was the law of the land until the United States legislature passed the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1946. Florida legislators also passed Statute 768.28. Both of these laws allow for injury lawsuits against state agencies under certain circumstances.
Florida Government’s Liability for Injury Claims
Florida statute 768.28 gives victims of negligence the power to sue the state of Florida or any of its counties or municipalities. A victim has the same right to file a case as they do if the responsible person was a private party.
However, there are a few exceptions and limitations to the type of recovery a person can receive if a state agency is proven to be responsible.
To begin with, the plaintiff must file a notice of the claim in writing. They must submit the claim to the agency responsible and to the Department of Financial Services. The state can accept the claim and agree to pay a judgment; however, in most cases, they refuse the claim. This refusal paves the way for the plaintiff to bring the case to the appropriate civil court.
Plaintiffs have three years from the date of the injury to submit a letter and bring the claim. If the case is a wrongful death case, they have only two years. These limitations mirror the length of time that a person has to bring a case when the responsible party is a private individual.
The victim must then bring the case to the proper court—the county where the event occurred, where the relevant property is located or where the agency ordinarily conducts business. If the responsible agency is a public university, then the victim should bring the case to where the university’s main campus sits or where they conduct a substantial portion of their business.
There are significant limitations to damages when the state is the responsible party. In Florida, a person may only collect up to $200,000 for one incident. In total, the state doesn’t owe more than $300,000 for any one occurrence. The state can agree to pay more, but that requires approval from the state legislature. The state never owes punitive damages, and they don’t owe interest for the period between the injury and the judgment.
Legal Developments in the State of Florida
Florida legislators tried to extend sovereign immunity in 1994 to cover all manner of state actions, including seizing tax revenue unlawfully. However, the court used the case of Department of Revenue v. Kuhnlein to remind the state that it is bound by federal and state constitutions.
Sovereign immunity does not give a state the authority to violate the constitutional rights of its residents.
Federal Tort Claims Act
The Federal Tort Claims Act is similar to Florida’s law, allowing a plaintiff to file a case against the federal government to the same extent that they can bring a case against a private person. Like Florida’s law, they cannot recover interest or punitive penalties for the case. The Federal Tort Claims Act gives the victim two years to file a claim.
Resources for Personal Injury Plaintiffs
A plaintiff should prepare and submit a notice of intent as soon as they become aware of their injuries. Even if they are not sure if the state is liable or if they even want to pursue the case, submitting a letter of intent is an important way to preserve the right to compensation.
Since these types of cases have such a short statute of limitations, it is important to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to make sure that the case is filed within the relevant deadline.